IT Security

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Multiple vulnerabilities have been found within the Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) specification. These vulnerabilities have been dubbed ‘FragAttacks’ and will allow potential hackers within range of the wireless access point to include their own frames into networks that use WPA-based encryption.

Introduction/what is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is something almost every business, user and home will have setup or come across at some point.

Technically speaking, a wireless transmitter (eg. a WAP) will receive information from the Internet via your Internet Service Provider (eg, Virgin or BT), it will then convert the information to radio signals which is exactly what wireless enabled devices need to be able to receive and understand it.

Simply put, it allows devices like your mobile or laptop to connect to the internet wirelessly.

It is a technology many of us take for granted as it is so omni-present – and this may be part of the reason as to why this vulnerability has only been discovered now.

What are the vulnerabilities?

There have been around a dozen vulnerabilities discovered that affect the Wi-Fi standard. Three of them are considered design flaws and the rest are caused by configuration/programming errors. But ultimately, the issue is that attackers can essentially steal your data if they are within range of your Wi-Fi network or connect to your devices.

Researcher Mathy Vanhoef was the person that discovered the vulnerabilities and dubbed them ‘FragAttacks’ due to the nature of the attack (which involves frame aggregation and fragmentation). The same researcher also discovered other vulnerabilities such as the KRACK attack and the RC4 NOMORE attack.

If attackers are within range they can potentially intercept your information and insert some of its own malicious information or even take over your device.

Why have the ‘FragAttacks’ only been discovered now?

The aggregation design flaw was noticed 14 years ago when the 802.11n amendment was being written. At the time, many IEEE members noticed the introduction of aggregated frames was in fact not authenticated, but as products had already been shipped with the amendment in place, a decision was made that this should not be corrected but instead devices would advertise when they are capable of authenticating the ‘is aggregated’ flag. However, not a single device ever ended up supporting this as the loophole was considered too difficult to exploit (and thus not worth the effort).

This is a prime example of why security defences should be implemented straight away before attacks become more practical.

What should you do as a business?

Whilst the vulnerabilities certainly suggest the Wi-Fi standard needs tightening up, it is unclear which devices are affected by which specific ‘FragAttacks’, and how likely it is for these vulnerabilities to actually be exposed in practice.

The general advice for companies (and their IT service provider) to combat these vulnerabilities is to do the following:

  • Don’t reuse your passwords for multiple websites/applications
  • Back up important data (check out our article on backing up data)
  • Avoid going on suspicious looking websites
  • Check your DNS server is configured to prevent ‘poisoning’
  • Using a VPN can prevent attacks where someone is trying to exfiltrate data, but it will not prevent attacks made directly on devices
  • Ensure all your devices have latest updates installed

Conclusion

The consensus is that a major overhaul, or abandoning Wi-Fi altogether, is not necessary. The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures system, which provides a point of reference for known cyber-security flaws and vulnerabilities, gives the ‘FragAttacks’ a medium severity rating. This indicates that the chances of anything resembling remote control is most likely too challenging and not worth it. The stealing of data is more likely, but if the above advice is followed, the risk is low.

Hopefully this article will help inform you more on the issue at hand – but if you like more information or would like further assistance tightening up your wireless security, please go to our contact us page.